Thursday, February 21, 2013

Calvin vs Cessationism

I'm not yet sure about Calvin's full view of miracles, spiritual gifts, etc. But it seems clear that he was not a 100% pure cessationist. At the least, he allowed for the possibility of apostles, prophets and evangelists after the New Testament apostolic age:
According to this interpretation, which appears to me consonant both to the words and the meaning of Paul, those three functions [ie apostles, prophets, evangelists] were not instituted in the Church to be perpetual, but only to endure so long as churches were to be formed where none previously existed, or at least where churches were to be transferred from Moses to Christ; although I deny not, that afterward God occasionally raised up Apostles, or at least Evangelists, in their stead, as has been done in our time. For such were needed to bring back the Church from the revolt of Antichrist. [Institutes 4.3.4]  
Also, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, he didn't interpret 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 in the common cessationist manner. Calvin did understand these gifts as temporary, but not to the apostolic age, but rather in this whole period prior to the final judgement:
Now our imperfection will one day have an end. Hence the use, even of those gifts, will, at the same time, be discontinued, for it were absurd that they should remain and be of no use. They will, therefore, perish...  But when will that perfection come? It begins, indeed, at death, for then we put off, along with the body, many infirmities; but it will not be completely manifested until the day of judgment, as we shall hear presently. Hence we infer, that the whole of this discussion is ignorantly applied to the time that is intermediate. [Commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:9-13]
Of course, Calvin does not see such gifts as necessary, normative, or permanent, for every church and every period of history etc. But that does not necessarily make him a cessationist either.

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